Covid US: Over 15M doses of vaccines wasted, mainly by pharmacy chains and state health departments

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More than 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been thrown away over the past six months.

Data obtained by NBC News from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the true level of vaccine waste in the country is higher than previously expected.

The 15 million doses have been discarded since March, when the vaccines first started to become widely available for all adult Americans. 

Large pharmacy chains and state health departments were most responsible for the waste of vaccines. 

The data is revealed after the nation’s vaccine roll out faltered for months during late spring and early summer, until demand for the jabs began to rise again once a Delta variant-fueled Covid surge began.

More than 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been discarded since March, an NBC News report finds. Walgreens is responsible for the most vaccine waster, throwing out 2.6 million doses

More than 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been discarded since March, an NBC News report finds. Walgreens is responsible for the most vaccine waster, throwing out 2.6 million doses

CVS is among the biggest vaccine wasters as well, throwing away 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

CVS is among the biggest vaccine wasters as well, throwing away 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

NBC aggregated vaccine waste data from vaccine providers across the country that it obtained through a public records request.

Walgreens, one of the nationwide pharmacy chains that partnered with the federal government to distribute vaccines, is responsible for the most waste at 2.6 million doses.

Around 2.3 million doses were reported as wasted by CVS, 1.6 million by Walmart and 1.1 million by Rite Aid.

Each of the chains have played a crucial role in distributing the vaccine nationwide so far.

NBC estimates that they totals reported are likely undercounts compared to the total doses wasted so far, though.

There are multiple reasons for vaccine doses to be discarded.

Sometimes, a vial will be opened to serve the next person who comes in for a vaccine.

There are multiple reasons for vaccines to be discarded. Some are unused doses as part of an open vial, some vials are damaged. Some also expired due to a lack of demand for the shots. (File Photo)

There are multiple reasons for vaccines to be discarded. Some are unused doses as part of an open vial, some vials are damaged. Some also expired due to a lack of demand for the shots. (File Photo)

Once a vial is opened, though, it must be used in a matter of hours before it expires.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine often included five to six doses, while a Moderna vaccine vial includes up to ten.

Sometimes, a new vial is opened to vaccinated one person, but if no one else is ready to receive the remaining doses then the rest of the vial must be discarded.

Doses are also discarded in cases where vials are damaged or spoiled due to improper refrigeration.

‘While we regret having to dispose of any vaccine, we’re extremely proud of our store employees who’ve helped administer more than 30 million doses,’ a CVS spokesperson told NBC.

‘When given the option of potentially saving a life or slightly improving our reported waste figures, we’ll always choose the former.’ 

Many doses were also wasted by state health departments who were allotted doses to distribute themselves.

Texas was the leader in doses wasted, with more than 517,000 vaccines discarded, more than 200,000 more than any other state.

North Carolina (285,126 doses wasted), Pennsylvania (244,214) and Oklahoma (226,163) were also among the leaders in doses discarded by state officials.  

‘While we do everything possible to avoid waste, and while we don’t want to waste on purpose, we also don’t want to miss any vaccination opportunities,’ the Pennsylvania Department of Health said in a statement about vaccine waste. 

Many vaccines have also been thrown out after expiring, as vaccine demand cratered for months in early summer.

Demand for the vaccines among Americans dropped significantly in late spring.

The vaccine rollout reached its peak in early April, when more than 3.5 million doses were being distributed every day.

The figure dropped all the way to below 500 thousands doses per day in early July, a low point since the vaccines became widely available.

Covid cases began to rise once again in July, though, when the Delta variant first began its takeover of the United States.

On particular days, the country has vaccinated more than 1 million people within a 24 hour span. 

Overall, around 700,000 Americans are getting jabbed on a daily basis, and the figure has slowly grown over the past few months. 

In total, 62 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 53 percent are fully vaccinated.

Any American over the age of 12 is eligible for at least one of the vaccines.

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